Hand Tattoo Pain- How Much Do They Hurt?

Written by: Claudia
Updated:

You’ve narrowed down your placement and decided on your hands. But now you’re wondering about how much it will hurt. Our Tattoo Pain Series of articles looks at the most popular tattoo locations and gives you the rundown on what you can expect in regards to pain.

Hand tattoos are a popular option for experienced tattooers. Most people don’t dive into getting their hands done as their first tattoo, because they’re quite difficult to hide and that’s often hard to adjust to. But hand tattoos have become popular over the last little while, and with that they’ve also become more socially acceptable expressions.

Hand Tattoo Pain: How Bad Do They Hurt?

The pain of hand tattoos is quite extensive, and just like finger tattoos, the entire experience can be very uncomfortable. A hand is packed with sensory nerves - it’s how we react to pain and touch. Some individuals like to tattoo their palms, and this region is even more packed with nerve endings, causing a nearly unbearable tattooing experience.

If you consider those very thin bones on the top of your hand and realize just how close to the surface they sit, packed full of highly sensitive nerves and very thin muscles, you can get an idea of just how painful the experience will be. Furthermore, tattooing on these bones will give you a hammering sensation that may extend beyond your hand, causing pain or numbness up your entire arm.

Learn about The Most and Least Painful Places to Get a Tattoo

Preparation

If you are considering getting a hand tattoo, you should not make this decision lightly. You should speak extensively to your artist about your reasoning behind wanting a hand tattoo, as well as your general pain tolerance. They could advise you as to whether or not a hand tattoo is best for your body at the moment.

Though hands are generally not very large and therefore have smaller pieces that are less detailed, with all the nooks, cranies, and bones, as well as it being packed full of hyper-sensitive nerves, your artist will have to be very careful tattooing this region. Your pain tolerance will dissipate the longer you sit in a session, and hand tattoos take a long time, no matter the size.

You should also keep in mind that hand tattoos are not easily covered. Without gloves or makeup, these tattoos are exposed in almost every situation. Some companies will not consider hiring you if you have exposed tattoos, and depending on your career, it may not be seen as a professional choice.

You should definitely not opt for a hand tattoo as your first tattoo, and even if it is one of many tattoos, you should consider this permanent placement very carefully. In addition, you should be aware that there is little that can be done to dampen the pain of this particular region.

Aftercare

One of the other challenging aspects of hand tattoos is how difficult aftercare is for the area. This is because it is a placement that experiences a lot of movement as well as constant exposure to bacteria. It’s even recommended that if you get a hand tattoo, you should take a few days off work to let it heal. Depending on your profession, some companies will not allow you to come to work at all while it is healing due to health hazards.

Your tattoo needs to experience little movement and constant cleaning when it is healing. Since you use your hands for everything from typing on your computer, to washing the dishes, to using the toilet, you are consistently exposing hand tattoos to numerous potential bacterial infections. Hand tattoos require far more caution with aftercare.

Because of this constant movement and the unavoidable friction of the skin on your hands, your hand tattoos are also more prone to ink loss and fading. This is especially prominent if your career involves working with your hands. You may need frequent painful touch ups in this region.

Why Do Some Tattoos Hurt More Than Others?

Pain is an individual experience, and tolerance of pain goes along hand-in-hand with that. Some people can sleep through a tattoo, while others are biting their tongue to keep from screaming. And this pain tolerance does not have a preference for gender or body type; it is truly a unique experience.

One of the primary factors that influence why some tattoos hurt more than others are related to the presence of nerve endings and the thinness of skin. The easiest way to evaluate how sensitive your nerve endings are in a region is to consider how sensitive that part of your body is to hot, cold, general touch, and pain.

In addition, the thinner skin means that the depositing of the ink in your dermis has to be very precise, making the experience more painful, no matter how skilled your artist is.

tattoo pain chart

Our Final Thoughts

Not only do hand tattoos come with an excruciating amount of pain, but so many other things need to be considered prior to deciding to get one. While tattoos are a personal choice and we don’t believe this expression should ever be judged, you need to think about your future when deciding on a hand tattoo in the moment. If this is something you are seriously considering, discuss all your fears with your artist who will help you come to the decision that’s best for you and your situation.

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